LAST SUMMER, Thespian Troupe 5299 of The Colony High School in Texas decided to slate Bonnie and Clyde as their winter 2019 musical. “That show was always kind of in the back of our minds, and we knew we had the perfect kids for it,” said Dwayne Craig, artistic director of Theatre at The Colony. Their main concern was how to build cars for the show. “We had no idea what we were going to do.”

A few months later, The Colony High School owned all four cars, as well as the entire 36-foot set and every costume, wig, prop, and more from the original Broadway production of Bonnie and Clyde — all the way down to design renderings, fabric samples, and understudy costumes. They acquired it all for a fraction of the cache’s multimillion-dollar value. And, for the most part, the costumes fit eerily well, almost as if they’d been custom-made for the school’s Thespians, as if they were meant to have them all along.

If this were the premise to some quirky cinematic heist, or maybe a Glee-inspired ghost story, it might be easier to suspend disbelief. But the real-life experience of a humble drama club trying to wrangle resources for their show?

How did this happen?

Ella Huestis and Fox Elrod in The Colony High School production of Bonnie and Clyde.
Ella Huestis and Fox Elrod in The Colony High School production of Bonnie and Clyde. Photo by Morgan Craig.


The Colony lies just 45 minutes north of Dallas, the childhood home of the real Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow. It seems to Dwayne and his wife, Ronda, director of operations for Theatre at The Colony, that everyone in town has a tale — tall or true — connecting their family to the infamous crime couple.

It was no surprise that Dallas Summer Musicals, presenter-producer of Broadway shows including Bonnie and Clyde, ended up with the technical production materials after the musical closed on Broadway. What’s curious, according to the Craigs, was how those treasures got buried in a warehouse, then so casually and discreetly auctioned off.

The Craigs caught wind of the auction after asking a local prop master to keep an eye out for the Broadway Bonnie and Clyde cars, which rumor had it were somewhere in Dallas. “Mid-November, she calls and says, ‘Oh, my gosh. There’s an auction, and they have the cars.’ She sent us the link, and we started scrolling. Sure enough, we saw the first car, then we saw the second car, then the third and fourth. Then everything else started coming up: the wigs, and costumes —”

“— the bathtub! —” added Ronda.

“— the cash register, the baptismal tank, the bar, the guns —”

“— badges, handcuffs, hats, undergarments —”

“It was everything,” said Dwayne. “We were going crazy. Turns out, Dallas Summer Musicals got a new staff, and they decided to auction their entire warehouse.” In addition to Bonnie and Clyde, this included Broadway materials from Flower Drum SongThe King and I, and The Addams Family.

The Craigs had never participated in an online auction before. After some digging, they realized the auction was off the radar of the broader theatre community. “People who knew about it seemed mostly interested in selling scrap metal from the sets on eBay, things like that. We told no one, of course.”

The Craigs had a week to prepare. They learned more about how the auction worked, then approached the school booster club for $10,000 — which they got. They had already priced building the four cars at $3,000 each, but here was a chance to get original Broadway set pieces for less. “We went into the auction knowing we had to get the cars. And if we spent $10,000 on the cars, fine. We can make the rest of it work.”

The Colony High School acquired all four original cars from the Broadway production of Bonnie and Clyde.
The Colony High School acquired all four original cars from the Broadway production of Bonnie and Clyde. Photo by Morgan Craig.


On an otherwise normal school day, the Craigs set up long tables with computers and iPads in front of the stage and turned their daily theatre classes into a remote auction house. Some parents and school administrators got involved, stopping in to help, check on progress, and give pep talks.

From 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., a rotating cadre of students and adults worked. Bundled items would come up for bidding in batches, and the team had three minutes per batch to bid. The school got their coveted four cars for only $1,000 each, but that was just the beginning. For perspective, a single handmade Broadway wig can cost upward of $2,000, and The Colony ended up with all 20 Bonnie and Clyde wigs, plus several bonus Flower Drum Song wigs that were mixed in the bags.

During her auction shift, senior Awnna Claire Singleton, who played Blanche Barrow in the school’s Bonnie and Clyde, took charge of updating the team by group message. “Every time I sent out a new message, our phones would blow up: ‘We got the bathtub!’ ‘The BATHTUB!!’ ‘OMG, Jeremy Jordan sat in that bathtub!’”

Ronda described the day as “an emotional rollercoaster. A batch of items would come up and it would get very quiet, everybody whispering to each other, trying to figure out what was coming next and who was bidding against us. For three agonizing minutes it would get so tense, then we’d find out we got it, and everybody would cheer.”

According to senior special effects makeup artist Raegan Thornburg, who also played Clyde’s mother, “Whenever we won an item, we celebrated like we won the Super Bowl.”

In the end, the school faced only two serious competitors: one local theatre, which accidentally used two bid numbers and ended up bidding against themselves, and a few Bonnie and Clyde enthusiasts, who lost interest once they realized these were not genuine relics.

“When it was over, we were exhausted,” said Dwayne. “Then the reality set in that we had until five o’clock the next day to pick up all this stuff.” They hired a moving truck and used three additional vehicles plus a gooseneck trailer. With help from parents, this caravan took several trips, 45 minutes each way, to gather the loot.

“Walking into that warehouse and seeing those original Broadway costumes and sets — for a theatre director, it was such a reverent moment,” said Dwayne. “We knew the true worth of these things and their history.”

The Colony High School students, staff, parents, and administrators got involved in the Bonnie and Clyde auction. Photo by Morgan Craig.


The first time the cast tried on their Broadway costumes was “a magical experience,” according to Singleton. “The costumes had so much character already. It made it that much easier to connect to the story.”

Senior Fox Elrod, who played Clyde Barrow, felt particularly moved by how closely his measurements matched those of Broadway actor Jeremy Jordan. “I had never done this before, putting on costumes that belonged to someone famous who I admired and looked up to. What if I was too big for them?”

The first costume handed to him was the “bloody Clyde.” He went to try it on, and there were “screams coming from the dressing room,” Dwayne said. “We didn’t have to take up the length, we didn’t have to take up the waist. I mean, it was a perfect, perfect fit.”

“Like a glove,” Elrod said. “It was so natural and strange and exciting.”

Singleton admitted that a couple garments worn on Broadway by Melissa van der Schyff didn’t quite fit. “But we were blessed to have all the original fabric and patterns, plus the swing and understudy costumes and some unfinished ones, which we used to complete the wardrobe.”

By working with Broadway costumes and sets, students got a remote master class in technical theatre by Tobin Ost, scenic and costume designer for Broadway’s Bonnie and Clyde. “To see his designs all the way through the process to the final project was amazing for our costume students,” said Ronda. “Even the pockets sewn in clothes for the guns — the smallest details were taken care of.”

For quick changes, students discovered how Ost designed rip-away pants with magnets, and Thornburg learned the art of quick makeup changes. “During one of the scenes, I only had two minutes to add a full bloody latex face prosthetic.”

Junior lighting designer Donna Bonnelle Yancey helped load in the sets. “It was interesting to see how a Broadway crew labeled and organized their abundance of materials, from spike tape to technical terms designating the structure, setup, and locations of set pieces,” she said.

The set was bigger, taller, and more complex — with three movable panels — than Yancey and her fellow technicians had worked with before. “I got to use critical thinking to solve problems such as how to incorporate our stage to work fluidly with the Broadway set, especially with all the moving pieces.” Yancey also honed special effects, including haze, smoke, and specialty lighting for car lights and gun battles.


In addition to technical theatre lessons, students researched the historical Bonnie and Clyde and helped put together a small museum of understudy costumes, Broadway production photos, and historical and community photos in the theatre lobby. They also filmed residents telling family stories about the real Bonnie and Clyde for a short documentary.

“We even had an employee of our school whose grandfather was a sheriff in Oklahoma who got into a gunfight with Clyde and the Barrow Gang,” said Ronda.

Between the students and community members, word got out on social media — and garnered the attention of the original Broadway cast and creative team, in addition to media outlets such as Playbill and Broadway World. Actor Melissa van der Schyff emailed the school to wish the cast well. Book writer Ivan Menchell contacted the school through Twitter and retweeted their promotions. The day before opening, composer Frank Wildhorn emailed, “As I always say to anyone working on my shows, go with passion! If you perform the piece and sing my music with as much passion as I had when I wrote it, you can’t go wrong.”

The troupe’s February 2019 production was a hit with audience members, many of whom approached the actors afterward to share additional stories. “After one of my performances as Blanche, a friend came up with his girlfriend and told me the real Blanche was her grandmother’s aunt,” said Singleton. “That was incredible. I could not believe I was so close to Blanche. She was practically standing right next to me.”

With the gorgeous Broadway materials and community excitement, performing Bonnie and Clyde was an unforgettable experience for The Colony Thespians. “This whole production had a different feel to it,” Singleton said. “Knowing that we had all the makings of a Broadway show only pushed us to work harder and be as close to the Broadway actors as we could get.”

Elrod says that Bonnie and Clyde will always hold a special place in his heart. “This story tells so much more than two people who did horrible things. It tells a story of love, family, and living life to the fullest. Bonnie and Clyde were criminals, but they wanted to make a better life for themselves.” Referencing the message from Wildhorn, he added, “What a life lesson for all of us: to go through life with passion.”

This story appeared in the August 2019 print issue of Dramatics. Learn about the print magazine and other Thespian benefits on the International Thespian Society website.

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